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Measuring Mission: The Importance of Mission Clarity

As nonprofit leaders, we are tasked with tackling some of society's most complex challenges. Our missions are often lofty and aspirational, aiming to "improve lives," "advance community development," or "create a healthier world." While these broad visions are inspiring, they can also be difficult to measure and evaluate. Without clear metrics and accountability, it becomes all too easy for nonprofits to get caught up in day-to-day operations and lose sight of their true purpose.

In his research for his doctoral dissertation, Patrick Jinks of The Jinks Perspective interviewed 13 nonprofit CEOs across the state of South Carolina to better understand how organizations measure their mission performance. What he found was that the vast majority struggled to articulate concrete, measurable goals tied to their mission statements. Many had mission statements that were overly broad, bifurcated, or even reversed in relation to their vision. As a result, these nonprofits lacked the data and evidence to demonstrate their true impact to funders, policymakers, and the communities they serve.

Crafting Measurable Mission Statements

The first step in improving mission measurement is to revisit the mission statement itself. Far too often, mission statements are created hastily or inherited from a previous era, without careful consideration of whether they are truly reflective of the organization's purpose and activities. When evaluating your mission statement, ask yourself:

  • Is our mission statement clear and concise? Avoid vague, lofty language and focus on articulating your organization's core charge or responsibility.

  • Is our mission statement measurable? Can you point to specific metrics, outcomes, or indicators that would demonstrate progress toward achieving the mission?

  • Is our mission statement distinct from our vision or strategy? The mission should describe what you do, while the vision paints a picture of the desired future state, and the strategy outlines how you'll get there.

A good example of a measurable mission statement comes from New Hope Housing, which aims "to provide life-stabilizing, affordable, permanent housing with support services for people who live on very limited incomes." This mission is clear, specific, and lends itself to quantifiable metrics around the number of housing units provided, the affordability of that housing, and the outcomes achieved by residents.

Building a Culture of Measurement

Of course, crafting a measurable mission statement is just the first step. Nonprofit leaders must also cultivate a culture of measurement and accountability within their organizations. This requires:

  1. Evaluating data management capabilities. Assess what data you're currently collecting, how it's being tracked and analyzed, and what gaps exist in your ability to measure key outcomes.

  2. Aligning staff and board around the mission. Ensure that everyone in the organization, from the executive team to frontline staff, understands and can articulate the mission. Regularly revisit the mission at board meetings and strategic planning sessions.

  3. Telling a compelling impact story. Work with your marketing and fundraising teams to translate your mission metrics into a narrative that resonates with donors, policymakers, and the community. Demonstrate the tangible difference you're making.

  4. Continuously learning and improving. Use your mission data to identify areas for growth and adaptation. Be willing to adjust your strategies and approaches based on what the evidence shows is working (or not working).

Ultimately, the goal is to move beyond mission statements as mere PR exercises and toward a true culture of measurement and accountability. By aligning your mission, vision, and strategies, and putting systems in place to track your progress, you can ensure that your organization is truly making the impact it set out to achieve.


In a world of limited resources and growing demands, nonprofit leaders must be able to demonstrate the value and impact of their work. By crafting clear, measurable mission statements and building a culture of data-driven decision making, organizations can move the needle on the complex social issues they aim to address. It's not easy, but it's essential if we want to truly fulfill the promise of the nonprofit sector.


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